While the 2022-23 season has some major changes for the Lady Celtics — a new head coach and emphasis on a fast-paced offense — some things remain the same.
The Celtics return four starters, including all three members of their back court. Juniors Avery Buss and Ava Rubio, who were both second team all-conference last season, along with senior KJ Custer, who received honorable mention for all-conference, will give the Celtics some leadership and spark.
“Our chemistry has just gotten a lot stronger together and we play more like a team,” Custer said. “It just makes our game stronger.”
New head coach Mike McShane wants them to get out and run, something that having an experienced backcourt could help make happen.
And while McShane sees the backcourt as a strength, the backcourt sees the increased intensity McShane has brought.
“We really need it to push us to our full potential,” Custer said. “I don’t think we’ve reached that yet.”
The fourth returning starter is forward Hailey Schwinof.
But beyond the returning starters, McShane is excited about the depth he sees in the roster.
“That’s going to allow us to make practices competitive, and the more intense and realistic we can make practices than the better we are preparing for the game,” McShane said. “I don’t know if we have any one or two players that completely stand out, but we have eight or nine players who can play.”
That depth also provides a measure of accountability, McShane said. If anyone needs a break, he feels they have the pieces to put on the floor and get things done.
While they may be undersized, McShane was confident in his team’s ability to play physical and box out.
One player that gives McShane and the Celtics some much needed size is senior Lillian Besa.
“[Lillian] has really worked hard this offseason with her conditioning and I’m really excited. I think she can be a breakout player for us,” McShane said.
McShane also projected guards Brookelynn Jackson and Aspynn Westby to come off the bench and provide some physicality.
McShane said the coaching staff has asked a lot of the team so far. They’ve asked them to for hustle, enthusiasm, conditioning and team spirit.
“They’ve answered the call in regards to what we’re asking from them,” McShane said. “All that stuff is contagious.”
6A Central Valley Conference at a glance
North Salem: Previous three full seasons combined (5A) 14-53, 6-42. The Vikings make the move to 6A, and bring out a young team with as many freshman as seniors, two. They’ll likely lean on the experience of five juniors along with those seniors as they navigate new league waters.
South Salem: Previous three full seasons combined 61-16, 39-3. After winning back-to-back Mountain Valley Conference titles in 2018 and 2019, the Saxons momentum was broken by the pandemic cancelling the season in 2020. In 2021 they dropped two conference games, the most since the 2017 season, finishing second in the conference. They’ll be young this season, with three freshman and three sophomores on the roster, and only two seniors.
Sprague: Previous three full seasons combined 8-64, 1-41. The Olympians have had their struggles with just one conference win in the past three seasons. But that win came last season, so there’s reason to look up on top of the mountain. Like most CVC teams, they lack seniors, with just two. But their five juniors should be able to provide that spark needed.
West Salem: Previous three full seasons combined 52-25, 35-7. No longer the bridesmaids, the Titans took home the conference title last season after going 13-1, knocking off the Saxons. But with last season’s title comes a lot of roster turnover this season. They return just five players from last season’s championship squad, despite six juniors being part of that 2021-22 team.